Expanded author visit program supports social-emotional learning at critical time

Martha ConradtDec. 1, 2021
Nikiyah Crosdale shares her book with students at Whittier Elementary

To support students’ social-emotional learning, Lead to Read KC has expanded our author visit program. Pediatricians, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and children’s hospitals have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health, citing the serious toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of existing challenges. Lead to Read KC believes in “Reading for Life,” and we are using our literacy platform to promote positive mental health strategies. 

This fall, we are partnering with three local authors for read-alouds with more than 500 students at five of our partner schools. It’s a time of critical need for further development of these life skills. 

Nikiyah Crosdale shared her book “The Thought Jar” with 100 second graders at Whittier Elementary School in November. Her book has a powerful message about the importance of positive thinking. The students loved meeting an author and receiving a brand new book! Many thanks to the Cerner Charitable Foundation for funding Nikiyah’s visit and book gifting. Check out the wonderful thank you notes below!

Thank you notes from students at Whittier Elementary

The Whittier staff loved Nikiyah’s visit, too. Lindsay Lowe, School Counselor, said:

“We are one of the lucky schools that gets to partner with Lead to Read KC. Recently, author Nikiyah Crosdale, very generously came to read her book with our second-grade classes and taught them about the very important skill of thinking positive thoughts. I keep a copy of Nikiyah’s book (“The Thought Jar”) on display in my office, and many kids light up when they see that they recognize the book. One student in particular who struggles with thinking positive thoughts has made significant improvement in this area since they were introduced to the book. This student will proudly tell me, ‘I decided I am going to have a great day’ just like the character in Nikiyah’s book did. Thank you Lead to Read for impacting our students.”

Vladimir Sainte—an author and licensed clinical social worker who has partnered with us since 2018—shared his “Just Like a Hero” book with more than 60 students at Hope Leadership Academy. “Just Like a Hero” helps students learn coping skills to manage their emotional health. Many thanks to emfluence digital marketing and the Children’s Services Group of Jackson County for providing financial support for this partnership!

Kristen Heath recently shared her book “We’re All Weird” with 140 first, second and third graders at Crossroads Academy Central Street. The book emphasizes inclusivity and kindness, which truly resonated with the students. Watch our “We’re All Weird” read-aloud video here

Author Kristen Heath shares her book We're All Weird with students at Crossroads Academy.

And, there’s more to come in December, as well as during the second semester. Stay tuned!

How to Help

The social-emotional toll of the pandemic on children is something we can’t overlook. 

  • Learn more about the national emergency in children’s health. 
  • Make a donation to our year-end campaign, which will support expanding this program. 
  • And / or become a Reading Mentor. Our reading and mentoring program also supports students’ social-emotional skills. Learn more at leadtoreadkc.org/volunteer—and invite your friends and colleagues to volunteer with you!